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Afghanistan Oriental Oblong Poppy Snake photograph

The photo shown below was placed on a WordPress blog by one of the most professional, most articulate and most prolific photographers among the legions of photographers on WordPress, and for that matter on any of the other blogs as well. I was intrigued by the plant and by the numerous comments generated by the photo, several of which apparently regarded the image as being other than normal and included such expressions as I have a dirty mind, and at first I thought it was slightly inappropriate. The plant also reminded me of something, not inappropriate but something I felt would be of interest to my viewers. I posted a comment on the photo and requested permission to use the photo on my blog.

This is my comment on the photo—it includes my request to the photographer:

One of the most curiously shaped denizens of the world of plants, one that perhaps Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame would label “the curiousest one of all.” At least I believe it was Alice who said that, but maybe the Queen said it. That’s an interesting photo of an interesting plant. It—the plant—seems be walking a tight tightrope, trying to maintain balance between looking dangerous and looking comical. For some reason I feel that it is driving me towards a posting of my own. May I use the photo for my post? You have my word that I will shame neither you nor the poppy plant.

This is his reply:
Of course you may use it, and I never for a moment thought you might shame my shot.

And this is the photo:
Click here for that post and click here for his latest blog post.

Judging from the numerous comments on this photo, it appears that for some of your viewers it apparently reminded them of something other than a poppy bud, and I believe I know what that something is. This plant—if it is a plant and not a snake— has an uncanny resemblance to the Oriental Oblong Poppy Snake found only in Afghanistan—that name is derived from the oblong shape of the animal’s head and the fact that the snake migrated from the Far East—the Orient—many centuries ago. Being familiar with the poppy snake, I recognized it immediately in the photo, but then I read the post and the blogger identified it as a simple poppy plant. Although I was not completely convinced, I will admit that it is probably nothing more than a look-alike of the poppy snake. One can readily see the danger posed to poppy gatherers by that resemblance. I suppose one could be smuggled into the United States because Customs inspectors of today are not nearly as effective as I when I was engaged in the profession. However, any attempt to smuggle in one of those serpents would necessarily be a dangerous act. Living always in the open among the poppy plants, the snake does not like close quarters and it would have been a life-and-death menace if smuggled as a body carry—one lick and it would mean certain death for the smuggler—and for the snake, of course, but that would be little solace for the dead smuggler.

Natives that have been stricken—licked—by this snake invariably shout Oops when it happens, possibly in an effort to warn other workers of the snake’s presence. Oops is an acronym comprised of the first letters of the four words in the snake’s name, and Oops is the last word spoken by those unlucky enough to be stricken.

This is an extremely rare animal that lives and thrives in the endless fields of poppies in Afghanistan. This snake does not bite its victims but simply licks, usually and understandably on a hand, finger or on the wrist, and one simple lick is always fatal, both to the licker and the licked. The licked one will die from the snake’s venom, and the snake will die from exposure to the licked one’s skin, regardless of the licked one’s age, skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, political leaning or religion.

Yes, in answer to your question, most deaths caused by this snake occur during the poppy harvest season. Harvesting is a slow process because each plant must be visually examined closely before it is touched, because the Oriental Oblong Poppy Snake—Oops—rears its ugly head up and balances on the tip of its tail to imitate a real poppy plant.

Harvesting is so dangerous that some workers opt out of the harvest and volunteer to don a shiny new explosive vest under their outer clothing and agree to mingle among crowds of people and then explode the vest at a time most appropriate to kill the maximum number of people, a deed necessary to allow the wearer after death to mingle among seventy-two virgins in the after-life, virgins that will always remain chaste regardless of the number of times they are mingled among, and regardless of the number of minglers mingling among them.

This is the world’s most dangerous reptile. One lick by this snake would kill an African Black Mamba in two seconds, and bring a full-grown elephant to its knees in three seconds, and death would occur in the next two seconds, a total of five seconds from lick to loss of life for the pachyderm. As for humans, they barely have time to say Oops, and are dead and rigor mortis has set in even before they hit the ground. There is no anti-venom available, neither for the licker nor for the licked.

One can clearly identify the snake by its small tongue that can be seen in the photograph, slightly protruding in the ready-to-lick position, similar to the s-shape position assumed by rattlesnakes ready to strike. This animal has only one eye, but that eye can rotate and cover a full 360 degrees of vision, a field even wider than that of rabbits. The Oops’ eye can clearly be seen at the top of his head, slightly off-center to his right. Yes, this is a male Oriental Oblong Poppy Snake, readily identifiable by the overall shape of its head and its small nose, located slightly off-center to his left.

Note to burstmode: I intended to post this as a comment on your blog, but because of its length WordPress would probably consider it spam and throw it in the trash pile, and people would not learn about the Oriental Oblong Poppy Snake and potentially lives could be lost, particularly among tourists traveling to Afghanistan during poppy harvest time. Thanks, and a tip of the kingly crown for posting the photo and allowing me to use it on my blog. It gave me the opportunity to discuss one of the rarest animals on earth, found only in Afghanistan and only in the poppy fields. Should those fields be eradicated, the species will quickly join the ranks of extinct animals and mankind will be the worse for its absence.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to  it.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Royal reflections on a wedding . . .

The purpose of this posting is to formally offer my congratulations—somewhat belated—to my daughter Cindy and her husband Michael on their conversion, during my reign, of some 19 years of conjugal bliss to the status of a lawfully wedded couple under the auspices of the Great State of Texas, and to thank the many family members and friends that gathered for their wedding at a lakeside home in a rural province near San Antonio, Texas (the city of Seguin) in October of 2009. My expression of thanks is also somewhat belated—hey, being the King of Texas is not an easy job—I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression, Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown!

Check out my Royal Reflections here:

https://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/about/

Beautiful photos and a cogent analysis of details—intelligent even—of the wedding may be found at:

http://cindyandmichael.wordpress.com/ (Come on, join the party—a trip to Seguin is well worth your while).

And you owe it to yourselves to view and enjoy some of the world’s finest photography here:

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/

A letter to my daughter

Dear Cindy,

I have never seen, nor do I expect to see in the future, a more beautiful assemblage of people than those you brought together for your wedding, regardless of the venue. The beauty of that event—the families of the bride and groom, their guests and their families and the many unrelated friends that came from far and wide to honor the event—has no parallel, at least not for me, and not at this point in my lifetime of memories.

A parallel may appear at some time in the future, but I doubt it. In my learned opinion the assemblage of people at your wedding ranks right up there—nay, surpasses—that of Hollywood’s Academy Awards, the Cannes film festival, the Country Music Awards, People magazine’s Most Beautiful People issue, and any other ranking of beautiful people that may exist.

For the benefit of any doubters that may find their way to this posting, I hasten to add that beauty, as applied to people, begins internally—it comes from the inner being and appears to others as a mirrored reflection of one’s soul (dang, I love it when I talk like that!).

As for Photoshop’s contribution to the event, I give it a total of one percent with the remaining 99 percent attributed to the talents and superhuman work you and Michael and others expended to make your wedding a success. Had I worn a vest, I would probably take that one percent contribution away from Photoshop and give you the full one hundred percent.

Your wedding gathering was—and in memories and printed images still is—a wondrous assemblage of a royal family and others. It showcases the bride and groom, the king and queen, the royal minister and his wife, the royal family’s members including our princesses and princes and their families, the bride groom’s family, and other friends and families from near and far, both in time and distance.


The assemblage included court jesters and noble knights, lovely and loving couples, cruel temptresses and impossible loves. I won’t linger on the cruel temptresses and impossible loves, but you can be assured that such may have been present—they can be found in any significant gathering of people, beautiful and otherwise.

I used the term assemblage because its definition best describes your wedding. I only added the term event to a machine or object: Assemblage: a machine or object or event made of pieces fitted together, as in a vast assemblage of gears and cogs, a work of art made by grouping found or unrelated objects—the action of gathering or fitting things together. The phrase a work of art says it all—that definition satisfies the most exacting critic of all—the King of Texas!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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UTSA’s 1992 search for a provost . . .

I submitted this letter to the San Antonio Light almost 19 years ago, but I don’t remember whether it was published. If I were inclined to guess, my guess would be that it was published—and if not, I can say in all modesty that it should have been.

First, a brief one paragraph history of the SAN ANTONIO LIGHT, a daily newspaper that flourished for more than 100 years in San Antonio, Texas, but is now defunct:

The San Antonio Light, a daily afternoon and Sunday morning newspaper in San Antonio, Texas began as the San Antonio Surprise in 1881. The paper subsequently morphed through a series of titles including the Evening Light, the Daily Light, the Light and Gazette, and finally settled on the San Antonio Light title in 1911. The Light was published continuously until late 1992 and was then closed, shortly after its purchase by the Hearst Corporation.

This is the letter I submitted to the Light, a submission prompted by the search  by UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio) to fill the position of provost at the university:

Letter to the editor, San Antonio Light

May 22, 1992

PO Box 161

To UTSA President Kirkpatrick:

In its search for the person best qualified to fill the number two position of provost at UTSA, your 13-member committee narrowed the field of applicants to one Anglo and one Hispanic. You selected the Anglo, and immediately protests poured in from various Hispanic student and faculty groups, political and community organizations and individual Hispanics, all charging bias and insensitivity and some calling for your resignation.

The Anglo declined the job offer, saying he would stay in Toledo “because we truly believe in the future of this community and this university.” Following his declination, you said the committee would continue seeking someone for the post.

Why?

You have a qualified person who wants the job, and was considered by the committee to be in the top one percent in a field of 200 applicants. He was the second best applicant in a listing of qualified applicants, the runner-up (so to speak) to the Anglo who was offered the job.

Why should the search be continued?

Let’s use the analogy of the annual competition for the Miss America title. The choices are narrowed to two people—one is crowned  and the other is named first runner-up for the title. If for any reason Miss America is later disqualified or is unable to perform her duties, the committee does not “continue seeking someone for the post.” The title and the crown go to the first runner-up.

While the competition for provost was no beauty contest, there were two clear winners. Scott McNall was selected to fill the position of provost at UTSA but has indicated that he is not available to perform the duties. Albert Ramirez was considered to be the first “runner-up,” and he is available and willing to perform the duties.

He should be given the job. Any other action tends to confirm theHispanic community’s perceptions of bias and insensitivity.

Postscript:

I don’t remember who was ultimately selected for the job. I would like to believe the Hispanic applicant was selected and if so, I would like to believe that my letter contributed to his selection.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
 

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